Archive for December, 2008

2,300 years ago, a formidable power from the southern Europe battled its northern African rival.  The fate of all of civilization rested on the outcome of the Punic Wars.

The First Punic War resulted in Rome seizing Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica from Carthage.  Rome emerged with a mighty Navy to control the Mediterranean.

The second Punic War featured Hannibal attacking Rome after a surprise crossing of the Alps.  Elephants in tow, Hannibal wrecked havoc on Rome and its allies for 20 years.  But Rome withstood the assault and eventually drove Hannibal to retreat and defeat.

The third Punic War set the stage for centuries of Roman world domination.  In 146 B.C., the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus reached the wall of Carthage, sacked the city, and burned Carthage to the ground.

The proud North Africans had to wait more than 2,000 years for a chance at revenge.  Thanksgiving Day 2008, a massive army of little blue squares was assembled in Italy under the command of Mighty Marty Panega.  Sitting across the Mediterranean was North Africa’s Carthaginian force, itself also in the shape of squares–but black instead of blue–with Jolly John Wharton ready to defend the homeland.  At stake was control of the world.

From early in the evening, Mighty Marty took control of the South Pacific.  Asia was fast becoming his.

His son Christopher, first time Risk player , was in a weak position in Africa.   He was highly vulnerable when his ruthless father turned in a set of matching cards, giving him dozens of armies to go on the offensive.  Though son Chris would have been easy prey, he had only one card and hence wasn’t quite as attractive a target of Jolly John.  Or perhaps the Mighty Marty has a soft spot for his kid.   With ease, he could have pointed his formidable troops at those of his weakened offspring.  But Chris is his eldest and his only male heir.  The opportunity to co-rule all of humankind with his son at his side was too appealing.  Just as Darth Vadar spared Luke Skywalker, Mighty Marty decided against overtaking his son.  Instead, his attention turned to Jolly John.

John was in firm control of South America.  He had most of his armies sitting in East Africa, protecting the pathway to Brazil.  Protecting his flank was a yellow power house in North America, under the direction of Dandy Dan (me!).  Marty could go through North America to get to John, but the yellow army was strong and could withstand an attack.  And Dandy Dan had five cards–so even if weakened, he’d come back at Marty like a Bat out of Hell.

So Marty elected to attack John, and the victor would decide the game.  If Marty prevailed, he’d pick up John’s two cards, re-fortify with another match, and turn his sights on me. If Marty came up short–even by a little–John would be too weak to hold me off.  Our western hemisphere alliance would be over and John’s cards would belong to Dan.

Marty rolled his three red dice.  John rolled his two white ones.  The fate of the world held in the balance.

A quick count of relative strength of Mighty Marty and Jolly John made the outcome of their brewing battle unclear. Marty certainly had more armies but not by a lot.  Moreover, John’s troops were spread across five countries.  The first one was his best fortified and they came ready to battle.

The story of Hannibal’s incredible counter-offensive in the Battle of Cannae has been re-told for 2,000 years.   Likewise, General John’s toying with Mighty Marty will be remembered for generations.  (I’ll make sure of that.)  John’s black squared army bent but never broke.  They withstood attack after attack.  When nightfall hit, only a few from Jolly John’s once strong army survived–but they held Carthage.

Mighty Marty’s red square army was mighty no more.  Proudly, his attack continued until only a few of his red squares remained.  The attack was called off, but only after every statistical possibility of victory dissipated.

Yes, Marty still had armies spread across all of Asia and the South Pacific.  Yes, Marty lived to fight another battle or two.  Yes, he outlived John.  With survival at stake, Marty even used his last offensive to take out his beloved son Christopher.  But history was already being written.  The world would not be his.  The new army–this one of yellow squares–was ready in Western United States.  Its strength was beyond what the world had seen to date.  Through Alaska and Russia it marched.  Asia and eventually the South Pacific crumbled.  It was only a matter of time before the world was to be filled by yellow squares.

The Dan Dynasty began.  Happy Thanksgiving.